As a trained industrial consultant, I have been called upon to "solve" various problems occurring in the industry, be they odor, waste, water or pollution problems. I have always kept in mind the "Pareto Principle": roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.

Having lived in Brazil for nearly six years, I was impressed with how the government of Sao Paulo helped solve an enormous air pollution problem. Imagine a city of 25-plus million people. They didn't limit outdoor cooking and fireplaces, which contributed about 5 percent to the pollution problem. They went after the 80 percent: the cars, trucks and, lesser so, industrial plants.

On even-number days, if your car license plate ended with an even last number, it could be driven, and vice versa. Trucks and buses with visible exhaust were heavily fined. The same with plant smoke. Carpooling became a "must."

Fewer cars sat idling in a traffic jam for 30 minutes. The car ban was an unpopular decision made by tough-minded civic leaders, but it helped. Are our civic leaders tough-minded enough?

Sheldon Murphy